Bigger paychecks could be on the way for Georgetown County employees

Georgetown County employees are one step closer to getting bigger paychecks. County council passed a second reading of an ordinance that will give them a five percent pay raise but it also comes with a property tax increase.

Georgetown County employs about 800 people, from the tax assessors office to those who respond to emergencies.

Back in 2009 property values fell especially in the coastal communities. That meant fewer tax dollars, so the county cut pay by three percent.

"It was the only way that we could find to avoid having to layoff employees so our staff was really good about letting us do that and they were troopers," said Jackie Broach, Georgetown County Public Information Officer.

Now county council wants to restore what was taken and raise pay by five percent.

"These are dedicated people. My belief is the first service local government should provide is law enforcement, fire protection, EMS service and that's what we're talking about here. We've got to take care of these folks," explained Councilman Jerry Oakley.

"To actually bring them up to the level that they would be earning had that not happened would require a fourteen point five percent increase, now we can't do that for several reasons. One it's just not allowable. We can't raise taxes that much in one year," added Broach.

To fund the raise the ordinance includes a millage increase for county homeowners. In the midway fire district a home worth $100,000 would see an extra $7.20 on their tax bill for the year. For other areas of the county it's $11.60.

"I have not heard one person say 'no don't do that.' There is just overwhelming community support to take care of our county folks. They take care of us," added Oakley. "In the future we're going to have to involve this short term partial fix into a permanent fix. Because we have not solved the problem we've just mitigated it."

A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on June 11.

A third and final reading for the pay increase is set for June 25. Both meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. and will be held in council chambers at the historic courthouse in Georgetown.